Developing leadership skills and inspiring intellectual curiosity within students is at the very core of our approach at Westbourne School. That approach extends far beyond the already broad and exciting curriculum and includes opening doors and opportunities within the world of business.
A personal link with one of the world’s leading MBA Business Schools, INSEAD in Fontainebleu, has, since 2015, provided Westbourne students with the unique opportunity to apply for the Summer@INSEAD summer school, reserved typically for INSEAD alumni children only.
An intensive, MBA style course, held within the impressive INSEAD campus and delivered by world class faculty members and entrepreneurs, students have consistently returned to Westbourne truly inspired, both with business ideas and from creating an invaluable network of equally capable, future business leaders. Not to mention having polished their UCAS personal statement substantially!
Applying for Summer@INSEAD in itself is a notable challenge, with spaces limited and students expected to not only hone a compelling personal statement, but to provide a strong video introduction in order to compete for one of the 80 places awarded each year. 2019 saw three Westbourne IB Diploma students selected for a place, each one now applying for a top university place in 2020.
Rather than Westbourne students heading off to Fontainebleu, INSEAD came to us!
A fully interactive workshop provided a truly unique opportunity for year 11, Pre-IB and IB1 students to gain insight into the intricacies of building, growing and marketing a business, understanding how to identify their consumer market, perform market research, through to pitching their business to potential investors.
Led by Adrian Johnson, Adjunct Professor of Entrepreneurship at INSEAD, with an impressive personal record of entrepreneurship. Co-founding Poptel, Germany’s first phone-to-phone Internet telephony service provider, Archimation, Germany’s first architectural animation and visualisation company; MrFootage, a web-based film footage library; and Eventival, a leading online film festival management system, his business pedigree made him an inspiring figure for Westbourne students.
As well as programme lead for Summer@INSEAD, Adrian also teaches the highly regarded “Your First Hundred Days” MBA course, as well as Executive Education customer-specific and open-enrolment programmes.
INSEAD@Westbourne: The day
The morning began with an introduction from Adrian who shared his personal experience, importantly his failures alongside his notable successes. He also drew inspiration from big companies such as Google and described the type of ‘failure parties’ the company is known for when a product does not work out the way the team developing it would have hoped for. While stressing on the importance of passing exams and being academically successful in school, Adrian encouraged his audience to welcome failure in the professional world and learn from it.
The introduction quickly turned to an interactive exercise, with students promptly placed into randomly selected teams. Aiming to encourage them to understand that in business you do not always have the luxury of choosing who you work with,
Once the teams had been formed, the structure needed to be decided. Students needed to distribute the key roles. As any organisation would, these ones needed a CEO, a CMO and a CFO as well as HR and a couple of other support roles. The students were encouraged to distribute these between themselves depending on their personal strengths.
Once the structure and teams had been agreed, it was time to create a company! Each team was assigned a different company and given an outline of its core products and future goals. The teams needed to understand these goals and align them with their customers. In order to do that the Chief Marketing Officer of each company would rotate and spend a few minutes speaking to ‘customer groups’ to question them on their need for the product.
Once everyone knew what their customers wanted the teams needed to map out a plan of action. They were presented with boards where they could map out their business plans and present them in a visually attractive way. With Adrian’s encouragement regarding the power of a great presentation, peppered with great examples from big tech companies who achieved initial seed capital and investment simply by having a powerful presentation.
Part of the presentation involved a ‘pitch’ interview with Adrian, in the role of a journalist. The rest of the presentation involved peer assessment, with the pitch being made to other teams, whose members would then critique and rate each project.
The aim of many of the exercises was to provide students with a broad understanding of just how a real business operates. Interestingly, Adrian shared that the workshop was not adjusted in any significant way to account for the significant age difference between his more typical Senior Management students. He was impressed with how quickly our students grasped all of the concepts and how effortlessly they executed the assigned tasks. He made a point of praising their creativity and drive as well!
‘Attending the INSEAD workshop has just reassured me about what I would like to do with my career and in the future. My favorite part of the day was when our team the Tigers had to come up with a marketing strategy and present it to the judges. The ability to create something and make it more successful as team is the biggest power in business. I learnt a lot from my team as we united our strengths to build up our own little business.’ Kinga, IB1
Reflecting on the experience many students pointed out not only being motivated by the workshop and gaining confidence in their presentation skills, but they also agreed this experience will help them with their studies. Rhys (IB1) pointed out that being the CEO of his assigned electric car business he had to break down tasks and approach them one step at a time, which he plans to use as a tactic in his IB exam preparation.
“This day was one of my best experiences in terms of getting to know business from the inside. Working under the pressure of time, trying to come up with creative and innovative ideas and keeping up with a consistent flow of new information made it close to the day of an average CEO. This is truly unique format with loads of material that you won’t find anywhere else, because it’s almost like a personal experience.” Kseniia IB1 student
In total, ten teams took part throughout the day and although one was crowned winning company by the end of the day, ultimately all the participants won a valuable growth opportunity from their interaction. Encouraged to remember that although success should be celebrated, failure is a valuable teacher, the only thing that should be avoided is inaction.